Secrets Of Artist Brush Repair

Have you ever had this happen, your favorite illumination brush is eaten by your dog? That’s what Pippa did recently. 

All Fixed

Well, she didn’t eat the whole brush. She chomped the handle into two pieces, just above the ferrule. That left me an unusable stubby brush.

But, I was able to rescue it. 

Using my electric rotary Dremel-type tool I drilled out the residual wood as far into the ferrule as possible. Then removed the cheap brush-head from a craft brush. I jammed my favorite brush-head onto the plastic handle crimping it with pliers. Wa-lah, all fixed.

That’s a unique brush repair. One I hope you don’t have to make. However, it points up the fact brushes need tender loving care.

Here are a few brush tips and tricks.

Dry out your brushes completely before storing them. If you take your brushes to a class or group paint session open them to the air as soon as you get home to let any moisture evaporate. You want them to dry completely before re-packing.

Stored upright with moisture in the ferrule brush handles may crack, ferrules loosen, and may even mold. Gouache and watercolor paints contain honey or glycerin to keep gouache moist when stored in the tube. I learned the hard way, mold in a brush or paints is difficult to stop or remove. 

If your brush slips to the bottom of a bag, like mine did recently, and comes up with wonky bristles don’t panic. I bought a new brush and didn’t open the bag for a week or more. When opening the bag I found the brush out of its little tube. And the tip was bent to the side. Sad.
To reshape the bristles I first used warm water to rinse out the size the brush was packed in at the factory. I stroked it on a bar of soap until it clumped on the bristles. I then pointed them between my fingers, playing with it for a few minutes until the soap began to hold the bristles up and together. I let this dry overnight. 

When I rinsed the soap out later the brush held its point. Sometimes it takes more than one try. 

If a brush won’t regain a sharp point it might be poorly made. It may also have its longest bristles broken, or something dried in the ferrule. 

For a few unruly bristles you can trim them off or pluck them out. You may do this for a couple stragglers, but it doesn’t work to give the whole brush a hair-cut. 

A round brush’s tapered shape depends on longer center bristles “held up” by shorter outer ones. That conical pointed shape is difficult to recreate yourself. 

If you have dried gouache or gum Arabic in the ferrule the bristles may not lay close enough together to form one sharp point. Water with a dab of shampoo or soap will dissolve both. The foam created also makes it easier to tell you’re getting out all the dried gunk.

My Cairn Terrier

The problem is, although doable, it takes time to dissolve everything. The water must be sucked into the tightly packed ferrule and come out again, probably many times before it works. With a bigger brush, to speed things up I hold the brush handle in one hand and wobble the bristles near the ferrule with the other. 

So take care of your brush and its ferrule, your brush’s happening place. And keep them away from my dog Pippa.  

Prior Related Post: 
Brush Basics and Buying  

Related External Video:
How Watercolor Brushes Are Made

Categories: Tips

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